I first tried hot yoga almost a decade ago back in my hometown of Toronto. I had just returned from an eight-year stint in New York City that left me broken hearted and directionless, yet still hopeful. My yoga practice brought me back to life. It gave me a sense of much-needed center and balance, and most importantly, peace.
Since then, my yoga practice became sporadic and soon my workout schedule filled with new activities, like boxing and running, ultimately replacing it.
When I moved to Prince Edward Island a few months ago, alone and not knowing a soul (except for my cat), I found myself in a similar spot. I was lonely, lost, and in desperate need of finding peace. I knew I needed a place and a practice to help me find my center again in the midst of my new circumstances. Intuitively, I was led back to my mat and I swiftly signed up for a summer-long membership at my local hot yoga studio.
Thirty days later, I made the right decision. I breathe more. I feel more intuned with my body. I feel at ease.
My skin, however, was not feeling so much at ease. In fact, it was a mess. No sooner did I re-start my yoga practice when my face broke out badly. Cysts on my chin, clusters of pimples on my forehead, big red zits on my cheeks -- you name it, and I had it. It was official: my skin in my mid-thirties was worse than it had been in my teens.
What was going on here?
Feeling frustrated and, admittedly, not super hot, I did some research and reached out to some experts. It turns out that developing pimples after hot yoga is actually a pretty common occurrence for some yogis.
Why You Might Breakout
First thing's first. Hot yoga is really hot. Temperatures can be upward of 105°F in a hot yoga class, which is basically a steam room. It explains why our skin, which is our body's largest organ and is responsible for eliminating a lot of toxins, would be affected.
"Hot yoga can play a role in acne, especially truncal acne, which occurs mostly on the upper back and sometimes on the chest or shoulders," says Dr. Dr. Hal Weitzbuch, M.D., M.S., F.A.A.D. "Elevated temperatures open pores like a steamer in a facial and also increases sweat production. When clothing compresses sweat against an enlarged pore, it can cause it to become blocked or clogged, which in turn can lead to pustules or acne."
What to Do
Shannon Dunn, beauty expert at Eco Beauty Editor and a hot yoga devotee, said she also suffered from breakouts when she first started her practice.
She helped rectify it by making she cleansed before and straight after class (a habit that Dr. Weitzbuch also recommends) as well as used an all-natural organic oil cleanser.
"Oil dissolves oil," Dunn explains. "And it doesn’t matter what your skin type is. Natural oil cleansers are fabulous for those who do suffer from acne."
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As someone who's a huge exfoliator and a big believer of scrubbing, I was skeptical about using a lighter touch when it came to my face. However, I was desperate so I dared to nourish rather than punish.
I swapped up my cream cleanser for an oil cleanser, replaced my moisturizer with a facial oil, and used diluted tea tree oil instead of my strong astringent as a toner. Within a few days, I noticed a huge difference. My pimples were slowly but surely shrinking.
Another tip? I immediately stripped off my sweaty clothes post-workout
"It’s extremely important to not keep sweaty clothes on for extended periods after working out. At the very least, cleanse the skin with a pad and change your shirt afterwards," says Dr. Weitzbuch.
How Long Do Breakouts Last?
After thirty days, except for a few stubborn spots, mine are basically gone. But it took a full month of being diligent to get to the other side.
Other people's timeframes might vary. For example, I have one friend who suffered breakouts post-hot yoga for nearly a year.
Dunn says it all depends on the person and what they’re doing before and after class, as well as their susceptibility to acne in the first place.
"Sometimes I’ve found there is a 'detox period' when someone starts to do hot yoga classes. It’s almost like there’s a tipping point - suddenly the breakouts are gone and your skin feels clear, smooth and amazing. Sometimes it’s a case of persevering through it, knowing with continued practice everything will balance back out."
Like my mind and body, my face has also finally found balance. Although the pimples were definitely a pain and a blow to the ego, I do believe they were a byproduct of the deep healing that my newfound practice has given to me.
I feel more refreshed and renewed than I have in a long time.
It was worth the acne.
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